A Declaration of Homestead is a powerful law that protects a homeowner’s equity in real estate and provides a financial shield to ward off potential creditor claims. Although initially drafted with good intentions, the Massachusetts homestead law was revised and modified over several decades, producing confusing and inconsistent interpretations. To complicate matters, due to the fact creditor-debtor disputes often end up in United States Bankruptcy Court, federal bankruptcy judges were often forced to make sense of the patchwork that comprised the Massachusetts state homestead law, and often produced outcomes that seemed inconsistent with the objective of protecting home equity. After years of complaints from practitioners, creditors, and homeowners, in 2011, the Massachusetts legislature completely overhauled the Homestead Act as they tried to simplify the law and close any loopholes that had been exploited in the prior Act.

After exploring the background and philosophy of homestead laws nationally, this Article explores the problems with the old Massachusetts Act, followed by a detailed analysis of the new Act to examine how the problems were addressed. The authors conclude that although the new Massachusetts Homestead Act better accomplishes the intent of a homestead law, some of the language chosen by the Massachusetts legislature will continue to cause interpretation problems that may produce inconsistent results and new frustrations.